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Transport and fate of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: implications to environmental health

  • Subash Raju
  • Maddison Carbery
  • Aswin Kuttykattil
  • Kala Senathirajah
  • S. R. Subashchandrabose
  • Geoffrey Evans
  • Palanisami Thavamani
Review Paper

Abstract

Global studies of microplastic (MP) pollution confirm wastewater treatment plants serve as pathways for microplastics entering terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The behaviour, transport and fate of microplastics in wastewater effluents remain mostly unknown, rendering wastewater-derived microplastics as a contaminant of significant concern. We critically examine the literature to understand the sources and fate of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and the implications of treated effluents admitted to soil and aquatic systems. The transport of chemical and biological contaminants is also discussed in detail, using fundamental principles of vector relationships. For the removal and reduction of microplastics, profound knowledge is required from source to solution. This review presents a comprehensive overview of the significance of microplastics as a vector of water-borne contaminants in WWTPs.

Keywords

Wastewater Treatment plant Microplastics Chemical transport Antibiotic-resistant genes Vector relationship 

Abbreviations

ATR

Attenuated total reflectance

Ag

Silver

Al

Aluminum

Cd

Cadmium

Co

Cobalt

Cu

Copper

dm

Diameter

dw

Dry weight

FTIR

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy

Fe

Iron

HDPE

High-density polyethylene

Mn

Manganese

Mo

Molybdenum

Ni

Nickel

PA

Polyamide

Pb

Lead

PC

Acrylic fibres

PE

Polyethylene

PET

Polyethylene terephthalate

PEST

Polyester

PP

Polypropylene

PPS

Polyphenylene sulfide

PS

Polystyrene

PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride

PU

Polyurethane

SEM

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Sb

Antimony

Sn

Tin

Sr

Strontium

ww

Wet weight

WWTPs

Wastewater treatment plants

Zn

Zinc

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Hunter Water Corporation and The University of Newcastle, Australia for the financial support through the Industry-University Engagement Scholarship. Authors also wish to thank Dr. Anna Lundmark, Mrs. Zoe Rogers and Mr. Bruce Cole from Hunter Water Corporation for providing water industry perspectives to set this research focus.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER), Advanced Technology CentreThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Cevas International Pty LtdNedlandsAustralia
  3. 3.School of Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, NIER BuildingThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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